Khartoum, London – Sudan People’s Liberation Movement announced it has freed 132 prisoners of war it had captured while fighting with government forces in Blue Nile and South Kordofan in 2011. Sudanese army said that only 125 persons have been freed, but it didn’t announce anything concerning the remaining seven.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) facilitated the transport and release operations.
Museveni conducted the necessary contacts with Sudan and South Sudan to enable the ICRC transfer prisoners to Uganda via external crossings.
Reform and Renaissance Initiative (Saehoon) welcomed the progress describing it as a brave step. The group hoped this will continue until all captives have been released.
The released prisoners are expected to arrive in Khartoum soon after their transfer from Blue Nile and South Kordofan where they met with president Museveni.
ICRC is expected to release a statement later on to explain the process that led to the release.
SPLM Sudan Spokesperson of Peace File Mubarak Ardol issued a statement, of which Asharq al-Awsat obtained a copy, saying that the leadership of SPLM wanted to show good faith in releasing the 132 prisoners.
He announced that the movement decided to liberate the men after deliberation between its chairman Malik Agar, vice chairman Abdulaziz el-Hillu, sec-gen Yasir Arman, and Commander Mekwar Jagoud.
Ardol praised the role of Ugandan President in effectively making the necessary calls between Sudan and South Sudan to ensure the release is done with approval of all parties.
Also, Ardol renewed his movement’s readiness to respond to any invitation from the African Union High Implementation Panel (UNHIP) to resolve the humanitarian crisis.
He reiterated the movement’s position to give priority to resolving the humanitarian issue and separate it from any political agenda.
Speaking to AFP, SPLM-N Secretary General Yasir Arman described the prisoners’ release as a humanitarian gesture of goodwill, “to bring happiness to their families”.
Sudanese army recognized this as a positive step towards achieving peace in the country.
While the ICRC said 125 people had been freed, Sudanese military spokesman Brigadier Ahmed Khalifa al-Shami put the number at 127, including 109 soldiers and 18 civilians.
Mohamed Saied Hassan of the Sudanese foreign ministry thanked the Ugandan president and government for mediating the release saying: “This operation paves the way for more cooperation between the two countries.”
Reform and Renaissance Initiative issued a statement welcoming the step and thanking all parties that ensured the successful completion of the release.
The group hoped this would rebuild trust and peace in the country where everyone can exist freely and peacefully.
In 2014, SPLM agreed to release 20 prisoners who were all gathered in South Kordofan as a good gesture for Saehoon, but the process failed.
ICRC postponed the operation because it wasn’t able to attain approval for landing and takeoff in Asosa, Ethiopia.